Chris Bosio

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

Joe Maddon's 2018 coaching staff came into focus Tuesday, with the Cubs officially announcing three moves.

The Cubs made Jim Hickey the team's pitching coach, making official what has been assumed for a while, that Maddon's former pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays would take over for Chris Bosio on the North Side.

Additionally, Brandon Hyde was moved from his role as the team's first base coach to become Maddon's bench coach, taking over for Dave Martinez, who is the new manager of the Washington Nationals.

And the Cubs announced that Will Venable will be the new first base coach after he was recently named a special assistant to president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Hickey, a Chicago native, spent the past 11 seasons as the Rays' pitching coach, presiding over a litany of young arms during and after Maddon's tenure as the manager there, including James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Chris Archer and Alex Cobb. Hickey was the pitching coach for a pair of World Series teams: the 2005 Houston Astros and the 2008 Rays.

Hickey's relationship with Cobb could be of particular interest this offseason, as the free-agent pitcher could be a target for the Cubs' front office.

Hyde has served as the Cubs' bench coach before, filling the role on Rick Renteria's staff in 2014. He spent the past three seasons as Maddon's first base coach, part of a staff that appeared in three straight National League Championship Series and won the 2016 World Series.

Venable spent nine seasons in the major leagues, wrapping up his playing career in 2016 after playing for the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition to these moves to lock in Maddon's coaching staff, the Cubs also announced the addition of Jim Benedict as a special assistant. Benedict was most recently the vice president of pitching development for the Miami Marlins and has also worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.

Cubs name Brandon Hyde - not David Ross - new bench coach

brandon_hyde_cubs_bench_coach_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs name Brandon Hyde - not David Ross - new bench coach

The Cubs coaching staff is nearly complete and no, David Ross does not currently have a role.

Brandon Hyde — not Grandpa Rossy — will take over as Cubs bench coach in 2018, moving from the first base coaching box to Joe Maddon's right-hand man:

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer confirmed the news on 670 The Score Thursday morning.

The Cubs did not want to lose Hyde to New York and he will take over the bench coach position for the second time in his Chicago tenure (he also served in the same role under Ricky Renteria in 2014).

This is the latest in a major shakeup on the Cubs coaching staff this winter. Five coaches have left Maddon's staff, with two — Davey Martinez and Eric Hinske — getting promotions as the Washington Nationals manager and Los Angeles Angels hitting coach, respectively.

The Cubs finished 2017 and a third straight trip to the NLCS with this coaching staff under Maddon:

Bench coach — Davey Martinez
Hitting coach — John Mallee
Assistant hitting coach — Eric Hinske
Pitching coach — Chris Bosio
First base coach — Brandon Hyde
Third base coach — Gary Jones

That coaching staff now looks completely different, just three weeks later:

Bench coach — Brandon Hyde
Hitting coach — Chili Davis
Assistant hitting coach — Andy Haines
Pitching coach — Jim Hickey
First base coach — TBA
Third base coach — Brian Butterfield

Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Henry Blanco (quality control coach), Chad Noble (bullpen catcher) and Mike Borzello (catching coach) are expected to remain in their roles as well as advanced scouting coordinators Nate Halm and Tommy Hottovy.

Ross is still currently a special assistant in the Cubs front office. It would've been hard to see him move to a demanding coaching role and miss so much time with his young family after an extremely busy first year of retirement.

The promotion of Hyde to a key role on the Cubs coaching staff will help maintain a sense of familiarity for the players amid a wild offseason shakeup. Hyde was already a part of the daily lineup workflow - letting players know who was starting and where they were hitting - and has been around since the early stages of the rebuild. He also served as a bench coach with the Florida Marlins for two years from 2010-11.

Cubs will hire Jim Hickey as next pitching coach to oversee new phase at Wrigley

1026_jim_hickey.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs will hire Jim Hickey as next pitching coach to oversee new phase at Wrigley

The Cubs have a deal with Jim Hickey to make him their new pitching coach, a source familiar with the agreement said Thursday, part of a much broader shakeup to Joe Maddon’s staff and a team that will need to replace 40 percent of the rotation and identify a new closer.

The Cubs essentially limited their search to one candidate after firing Chris Bosio last week, knowing Hickey’s close relationship with Maddon, his reputation for helping the Tampa Bay Rays consistently develop young pitchers like David Price and Chris Archer and his roots on Chicago’s South Side.

Hickey became an in-demand free agent earlier this month when he parted ways with Tampa Bay with a year remaining on his contract. Maddon denied the speculation about a reunion during the National League Championship Series, when he said “of course” he would like his entire coaching staff back in 2018.

Two days later, Bosio got fired during a Wrigley Field exit meeting. Hickey was said to be in the mix for potential jobs with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox.

“The fact that Hickey’s available has nothing to do with it,” Maddon said Thursday on the same conference call where he explained the availability of Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield — with the Red Sox staff in flux — led to the dismissals of hitting coach John Mallee and third base coach Gary Jones.

Bosio — whose six years with the Cubs covered marketing short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija for big trade-deadline deals and overseeing the development of Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks into foundation pieces for a World Series rotation — is said to be close to landing another job as the Detroit Tigers pitching coach.

With Arrieta and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents — and John Lackey expected to disappear into retirement in Texas — the Cubs will have a major overhaul of their pitching staff. Two key pieces to that pitching infrastructure — catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello and run prevention coordinator Tommy Hottovy — will remain in place next season.

Hickey also creates another connection to Alex Cobb, a free agent the Cubs will need intelligence on after he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the middle of the 2015 season. Cobb went 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in 115 career starts for the Rays, just turned 30 and has only 700 innings of major-league wear and tear on his body.

Major League Baseball is entering a World Series blackout zone where teams are not allowed to make major announcements. But there is no doubt Hickey will be coming home to Chicago, wearing a Cubs uniform next season and standing next to Maddon in the Wrigley Field dugout.

“We just thought it was time for a different voice at this particular moment,” Maddon said. “I don’t want to get too deeply into that, but that’s exactly where we’re coming from. We just decided to make this change. I’m here to tell you, man, Boz is one of the most organized coaches — not just pitching coaches — I’ve ever been around.

“Nobody can care more than he did. But just moving it along — and I hate to say change in direction or whatever, I don’t like to use that phrase — we just thought a different voice was important right now. And that’s it. But it had nothing to do with Hickey.”